[LIVE REVIEW] Minus The Bear + Creo // Oxford Art Factory // 03/08/17

Here’s the thing about Creo: You want to care about them. They’re clearly giving it a red-hot go up there, thrashing about what little space they have on-stage in front of the headliner’s backline and emoting on a grand-gesture level. Their singer, who holds a unique and raspy voice not unlike Passenger’s Mike Rosenberg (in a completely different musical context, of course), occasionally backs off the microphone to let out a roar. He beats his chest with his fist.They’re purposefully, intently focused; trying to light a fire to eventually blaze into an inferno. Alas, but, however; the operative word in the first sentence is “want.” The harsh reality about Creo is that there is not nearly enough substance, catchiness or weight to their music to warrant even a nod of the head or a tap of the foot, let alone the pound of a chest. It’s hollow, forgettable music; it leaves no impression and passes by without any resonation. It aspires to the crescendo-heavy indie-rock joy of The War on Drugs or Gang of Youths, but the execution is decidedly lacklustre and milquetoast. At one point, after the applause dies down, a single voice rings out in the sparsely-populated room from a punter. “Good on you, buddy,” he says. He probably didn’t even mean it to be so condescending, but it was one of the single most brutal heckles a band could possibly receive – and it summarises Creo far better than it should have any right to do.

Eight years and five months separate Minus the Bear’s visits to Australia. Having last performed in Australia for the 2009 edition of the ill-fated Soundwave Festival, by rights this show should at least feel more momentous going into it. A handful of factors, however, prevent that feeling from the outset. The show is sparsely populated, certainly not helped by the venue itself being too big for a niche band; and those that are in attendance are generally subdued and unresponsive – completely unbecoming for a band that’s been away for nearly a decade. Still, full credit has to be given to Minus the Bear themselves for taking it in their stride and showcasing 15 years of impressive, angular math-rock; regardless of any other factors. The unique, tap-heavy guitar playing of Dave Knudson is mesmerising to watch; while the band spark at least some semblance of reaction to older favourites like “Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!” and “Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse.” There’s also the serenity of “Diamond Lightning” and the neon-tinged pop of “My Time,” both of which were released in the intervening years between visits from the band. It’s a strong showing, and worth the years of waiting to see them live again. It’s somewhat bittersweet, however, as the fact this show doesn’t get the attendance it deserves both puts a damper on the evening and reflects on the struggles and issues that are currently facing Sydney on the whole. Let’s hope the 2025 tour is a little kinder.

 – David James Young